Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s true gems. It’s a place that’s hard to describe with words and easier to tell through sentiments as the neighbourhood thrives through feelings.
If Kensington Market had to be a song it would be a mix of Call on Me by Janis Joplin and Kiss Off by The Violent Femmes. If it was a flower it would be that dandelion that has pushed its way up through the sidewalk. If if was an artist it would be Keith Haring and Basquiat.
This community is the living embodiment of an artistic movement.
The area is filled with different statues and murals, flags and cultures. It’s a place that you feel at home with just by walking around. Where you could be dressed anywhere from your pajamas to a suit and you wouldn’t get a crude glance.
This Torontonian community is located beside Chinatown, between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street. It’s a place that has some of the most heart, artistic flare and urban charm in Toronto and it’s an excellent excursion when visiting the city.
When going to Kensington Market there are three places you have to eat at.
First is the Big Fat Burrito. Ask anyone where to eat in Kensington and they will answer with this place. Packed with flavour, these burritos are great for any mood you’re in and will leave you wanting more.
If you like sweets, stop by Pancho’s Bakery for churros. These Spanish pastries are addicting and hit the spot when you have a sweet tooth. The dulce de leche ones are a personal favourite of mine, the confection mouth watering with the sweetness of the churros.
Finally, the best place to eat in Kensington Market is the KOS Restaurant. Great food for a great price topped off with an all day breakfast menu. However, the highlight of this restaurant is the Greek Vegetarian Burger. As a vegetarian, there’s always a few things you miss, a good burger on a patio is one of them. Luckily for us this burger is by far the best one I’ve had. I make my way to Kensington on a regular basis just to get one. Even if you eat meat you can’t miss this dish, it makes you forget that it’s not a real hamburger and fall in love with the veggie burger.
If you are visiting Toronto during the winter make sure to join in the festivities for the Annual Kensington Market Winter Solstice celebration. It’s an event like none other in Toronto, where performers, singers and circus groups put on a night to celebrate the solstice. People walk in a parade after dark with lanterns as faces are covered by brightly painted masks. Afterwards, people make their way down to a bonfire where drums are played and groups perform dances in the crackling light.
The website for the Annual Kensington Market Winter Solstice. http://www.redpepperspectacle.com/2016-winter-solstice-festival.html
Kensington Market is full of creative expression whether it’s through food or art. It’s one of the well know communities in Toronto and it’s definitely a hot spot when visiting the city. Grab your camera, your appetite and your friends, and head down to one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods that make Toronto so special.
Chinatown is one of the more unique neighbourhoods in Toronto. Sure cities such as New York, Boston and San Francisco have similar communities but the feel and the rush of this one is unique to Toronto. Travel to any other area in Toronto and you will not find the same hustle and urgency that Chinatown has.
The beauty of this community lies in its’ immense size. Stretching from around Queen Street East to College Street, Spadina Avenue is consumed by the surge of traffic, fresh markets and vendors that extend from their shops onto the sidewalks.
The best thing to do in Chinatown is to take advantage of their fresh produce. I’ve lived in Toronto all my life and I always make the trek down to Chinatown for certain fruits. A personal excursion of mine is buying some red bean buns, branches of longan fruit and fresh sugar cane juice before walking to the park behind the Art Galley of Ontario to eat and do some writing.
Rich culture with a bright environment.
Toronto’s Chinatown is colourful. It’s bright with reds, greens, and yellows, contrasting against the old brownstone buildings made years ago.
If you are travelling in the summer, make sure to stop by the Toronto Chinatown Festival. Attracting over 100’000 people in two days, the festival features dragon dances, street delicacies from China and a parade. The festival is a celebration of the lunar harvest, originating from the old legend of the immortal archer Hou Yi.
The Legend of Change E and Hou Yi. http://www.moonfestival.org/the-legend-of-chang-e.html
Experience the neighbourhood.
Chinatown is a quick walk so by spending an hour or two in this neighbourhood you will be able to see all of the sights and markets in this area.
For great modern Chinese food stop by the R&D. It’s a restaurant owned by the first MasterChef Canada winner Eric Chong and Michelin star chef Alvin Leung. The restaurant is an urban beauty with great food and great cocktails. Recently I had an interview with Eric Chong, the young chef as modest and humble as the day he won the popular cooking show.
Article on the excellent culinary star R&D. https://rutvnews.com/2016/11/23/eric-chongs-restaurant-rd-is-a-culinary-star-in-torontos-chinatown/
A unique Toronto energy.
Chinatown is a part of Toronto’s mosaic identity, you can’t visit the city without dropping by this urban beauty. With beautiful iron signs that stand tall over the street car lines, graffiti that brightens up the old buildings and stores that you will find nowhere else in Toronto, it’s a special neighbourhood to say the least.
Chinatown has a different energy that anywhere else, it’s a certain chaotic urgency that somehow manages to flow together. Make sure you add this special centrepiece of Toronto’s culture to your list when visiting the great city.
Toronto is a quilt of mismatch fabrics. Walk down the street and you’ll find yourself in a completely different neighbourhood than the last. It’s an assortment of clashing identities but somehow it works, it’s a beautiful mess and it makes Toronto the well known city that it is.
The Beaches community has to be one of my favourite parts of Toronto. I’ve travelled around the world but one thing stays the same, there’s no place like the Beaches. If you drive from downtown it’s only 10 minutes away, you walk the boardwalk and see the city but it’s not saturated with the traffic and oversized billboards. It’s Toronto at its’ best, an artistic community that can only be described as alive and refined.
The community is a Toronto-European hybrid. It has the red streetcars of Toronto while having the patio life of drinking coffees and walking to bakeries in the morning. Every block hosts at least one coffee shop and everyone walks everywhere.
If there’s one thing that Beachers are, it’s proud. They are proud to live where they do and they are grateful for it. They meet up with friends to run their dogs at the beach and have their morning jog along the boardwalk all while working in the downtown of Canada’s largest city.
When travelling to Toronto, take the time to visit the Beaches and walk down one of the most well known communities in Canada. Once you explore the restaurants and boutiques around Queen Street East head straight for the water. The Beaches boardwalk winds along the edge of Lake Ontario for 3.5 km, leading you by the different attractions and the different views of the lake. With sights such as the iconic Leuty Lifeguard Station, Woodbine Beach for volleyball and swimming, and the historic Balmy Beach Club, the boardwalk is well worth the time to explore.
The Beaches is an oasis from the city.
If you are coming in the summer pack your towel and flip flops. The beach is a hotspot for tourists and anyone in Toronto who is looking to escape the heat. Against common misconceptions, the lake is safe to swim in! If you’re weary you can check the City of Toronto’s site that regularly tests the city’s beaches. Toronto is certified by the Blue Flag Program for having internationally recognized water quality standards. Swimming is a great part of the Beaches experience so have lunch on a restaurant patio before heading to the water for a dip.
City of Toronto’s site on water quality testing. http://app.toronto.ca/tpha/beaches.html
The best way for getting to the Beaches is taking good ol’ fashioned Toronto transit. Depending on what time of year you come parking can be an unneeded hassle. Take the 501 Queen streetcar and ride from heart of downtown Toronto to the Beaches or take the subway. Toronto transit is one of the easier subways to master once you have a map so don’t be intimated by the different lines.
The Beaches is one of the main communities in Toronto, its’ been around since the early stages of the city and it will continue to grow in popularity for years to come. With it’s picturesque views and alluring European charm, the Beaches should be on your list of spots to visit in Toronto.
Toronto is known for its’ fast paced environment of bright lights, towering buildings and that classic Canadian feeling of acceptance. The city has its’ CN tower and sports teams, Eaton Centre and waterfront however what isn’t always highlighted is Toronto’s flourishing art scene. Most importantly, the Canadian Opera Company.
Opera is an old art but there is a reason that it has thrived for centuries.
Toronto’s opera community is a strong part of the city’s art scene and it should be taken advantage of in every traveller’s itinerary. It isn’t just an oeuvre but it’s an event, a night with so much thought put into every detail that you will remember it for years to come.
The COC is great for their renditions of pieces and in all my years I have not been disappointed. Every member of the production is passionate about their part and about the work they produce. It is seen from every perfect music cue and strategic lighting of the act.
From the set to the music, costumes and staging, opera is more than just singing.
The layout of the opera house resembles a contemporary Scandinavian amphitheater. The beauty of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is worthy of the operas performed with glass walls looking onto University ave. The architecture of the Four Seasons is enough of an incentive to stop and enjoy an opera on your trip to Toronto.
If you’re a spontaneous traveller like me and prefer to do things spur of the moment, then rush tickets are the thing for you. You arrive at the Box Office at 11:00 a.m. on the day of the opera to buying tickets that haven’t been sold yet. The seats are usually in the higher levels or standing room but if you can bear it standing room is the way to go. They are seats that are typically on the sides with a cushion to lean on, ranging from $12 or less and for an opera there is no better deal that that.
When going to a COC production they have a Pre Performance Chat that discusses the composer, content and small details that you would never realise. It’s 45 minutes before the opera and well worth the time as speakers are all highly educated on that specific opera. The speakers explain the opera while playing clips of the performance, their eyes lighting up at the particularly fascinating facts. It’s the passion of the speakers that add another intangible component to the COC productions.
The opera is a chance to slow down and enjoy a true Torontonian experience. It’s the time when you get to break out your long dress that stays in closet, wear those heels you had to buy for some reason and take candid photos in Toronto’s bustling art scene.
Growing up in Toronto the COC has always been an cherished part of my year. My parents would buy us opera subscriptions for our birthdays and that meant every few months we would dress up and watch a classic piece that people have enjoyed for centuries. The Four Seasons isn’t just about the opera, it’s about memories that you will carry with you long after you leave Toronto.
The COC ensures that every aspect of the event is memorable for the viewer. Whether it’s the speakers who become excited when discussing a particular cadenza, the sets that shift and evolve with the act, or it’s sitting on the wooden stairs between acts with a glass of wine while you look over Toronto’s busy streets, the opera is essential when wanting the true Torontonian experience.